The Tyranny of Political Correctness

Before I embarked on parliamentary service (I refuse to call it a career) an experienced hand wrote me a letter containing some advice. Among the many nuggets of wisdom was his experience of the types of people attracted to public life.

‘It’s very simple’ he wrote. ‘In politics you can divide people into two camps. There are those who are honest and those who are not. And never forget the adage that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ because you will find that it is the case for those engaged in the political debate.’

After twenty five years or so of being involved in political activities, I find the words of advice have rung absolutely true. I have always wondered why, in the battle of ideas, some feel the need to mislead whilst attempting to advance their own argument or countering their opponents. My conclusion is that they know just how weak their position is so they need to redefine the truth as they see it.

This week I have seen two substantive examples.

The first took place on the ABC’s Q&A program. Aboriginal activist Marcia Langton took it upon herself to criticise columnist Andrew Bolt for “foul abuse” of Dr Misty Jenkins for writing that she was “a blond and pale science PhD who calls herself Aboriginal.”

Langton further claimed that this had caused Jenkins to withdraw from public life and that “she used to speak to students.” The evidence from Dr Jenkins herself suggests she continues to speak to students and hasn’t withdrawn from public life. Further, Dr Jenkins has acknowledged previously that her paler skin meant she wasn’t the subject of physical discrimination that others in her family were.

So why the need to mislead an adoring ABC audience in an attempt to inflame division? Surely it is possible for a scholar to refute an argument with fact rather than emotive fiction? Unfortunately in this brave new world, the facts seem less and less important. So too it appeared that the facts were less important than sensationalising a recent column from Australia’s most successful entrepreneur Mrs Gina Rinehart.

Mrs Rinehart wrote an article entitled “The Age of Entitlement – has Consequences” in which she detailed some of the financial and societal challenges facing Australia today. She specifically mentioned Australia’s record debt and our inability to even pay the interest on this debt without resorting to more borrowings. Mrs Rinehart correctly stated that we are living beyond our means and that the $130 billion annual welfare bill was unsustainable. In her advocacy for cutting government expenditure, she carved out from such cuts the elderly and those who genuinely weren’t able to look after themselves. She also predicted the response such ‘heresy’ would draw from the political left.

Again, she was right on the button. As if on cue, a conga line of left-leaning commentators attacked her column. Some suggested Mrs Rinehart wanted to cut the aged pension and healthcare. This is despite her column clearly identifying the core function of government.

She wrote: “Without enterprising people paying tax, governments had no money to provide – including what a country needed to do – pay for healthcare, police, defence, caring for senior citizens, roads and helping those truly unable to help themselves.” The fact that Mrs Rinehart is absolutely right scarcely got a look in through the mainstream and social media. Instead, the mantra was to misrepresent her words and personally attack the successful person who dared challenge the shibboleths of the left. Unfortunately, this is what passes for political debate today. It seems the facts are less important than the political culture of those who deliver the message. It’s just another development in the new tyranny of political correctness.

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